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The blueprints for mass incarceration were drawn during the Civil Rights era.

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In the absence of socio-economic reforms, crime becomes a greater problem and what ends up happening, especially by the Nixon administration, is that crime control - the police, the courts, the prison system - becomes a means to manage the symptoms of poverty without working to combat its root causes.

Historian Elizabeth Hinton traces origins of the modern mass incarceration system to the failings of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs of the mid-1960s, when liberalism's failure to confront structural inequality in America met with a set of racist assumptions on Black Americans, and created the blueprint for the surveillance and exploitation of Black lives that future presidents would escalate and expand for decades to come.

Elizabeth is author of the new book From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America from Harvard University Press.

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Elizabeth Hinton

Elizabeth Hinton is an author and Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies.

 

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